By Phil Schipper / March 19th, 2014
|Title||Tales of Symphonia Chronicles|
|Release Date||February 25, 2014|
|Age Rating||T (ESRB)|
It’s no secret–I’ve always been a fan of the Tales series, and Tales of Symphonia, in particular. When Tales of Symphonia Chronicles came out, I jumped on it and pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition right away. That’s because I absolutely love Tales of Symphonia–but this is not a review of that game (which I’ve already done), or a review of its sequel, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, which is the other half of this package. While I can’t fully review Chronicles without mentioning the value of its two root games, I want to focus mainly on what it alone has to offer.
The first, and most obvious, aspect of this PlayStation 3 remaster is the updated, HD graphics. Everything definitely looks a step or two sharper and nicer, but some things received a much more detailed treatment in that regard. Spells and other special effects, particularly, often have a brand-new and greatly improved look. The text and other 2D objects look perfectly HD-sharp, and 3D models have greater detail and smoothness. On the other hand, a couple of things, like the explosions from blowing up certain enemy bases, don’t look like they got much attention (and, arguably, those needed it the most in the first place). A couple places in the game also have some gorgeous new animation sequences.
Where there is a graphical discussion, audio comes with it. Tales of Symphonia Chronicles has a handful of improvements in that department. First, in the original Tales of Symphonia, one of the audio tracks didn’t come through. If you listened to the soundtrack you would have heard one instrument in each song that didn’t come through in the game. This time, though, each song plays as originally intended, making for a more complete sound. A handful of tracks, like Iselia’s theme, sound quite different after this treatment.
The second thing is the dual audio. Even if you don’t normally prefer Japanese audio to English, it does offer a couple of advantages. In English, Tales of Symphonia was one of the last games in the series that didn’t have voice acting during skits. The Japanese voices, though, do extend to them. Also, one of my main gripes with Dawn of the New World, originally, was that almost the entire English cast had been replaced. Again, this is not a problem in Japanese. Overall, what you can get that way is a more consistent experience. (Because of this change, a lot of in-battle lines are now subtitled regardless of your preference.)
The only audio that’s really been outright replaced is in the intro sequences of the game. They use the Japanese songs, and the version we originally got is nowhere to be found. Tales of Symph0nia takes it a step further and has two versions of the intro, both of which are actually slightly new. When you first load it up, it’ll play a subtly changed rendition of Starry Heavens, but it’s worth waiting at the title screen to watch Soshite Boku ni Dekiru Koto come up–this time, it’s an awesome techno remix!
If you’re looking for more than just a prettying-up of the game, though, the original Tales of Symphonia, in particular, has a lot to offer. The alternate costumes teased by the press leading up to the game get unlocked instantly if you have have a Tales of Xillia save file. Barring that, you’ll unlock them by starting a New Game Plus. Each character also has another new costume, added originally in the Japanese-only PS2 version of the game. It’s not as easy to get all of these, though, as quite a few are tied to the game’s different endings, but some options are Lloyd’s clothes for Colette, a samurai outfit for Lloyd and Kratos, and more. These are unlocked through new events, which go along with a decent set of other newly-added scenes. One is even tied to the casino in Altamira, which is actually playable this time around, and includes a slot machine and an interesting modified version of Blackjack.
Another thing that’s added to Tales of Symphonia is a large set of brand-new attacks for each character. Most have at least one or two added to their basic set, but those who didn’t originally have an ultimate attack (known as Mystic Artes in later games) now have one added in, complete with cut-ins. They can be difficult to pull off, but it’s a nice touch. Unfortunately, since these attacks have never been voiced in English before, those lines are pulled by voice actors that might sound convincingly enough like the originals… if you could really hear them. The new abilities aren’t just for the player’s party, either–some bosses have them, too. There are also a couple of new optional bosses, if you look hard enough.
Dawn of the New World feels a lot more unchanged. The biggest addition is new headgear for both of the main characters. Unlike normal equipment, it actually changes the character’s appearance, at least in battle. Some of them include crowns, animal hoods, and my personal favorite, robot heads. Some do have special effects, but generally their stats aren’t great and you’ll end up choosing between the practical option and what’s most amusing to look at.
Playing Tales of Symphonia in a group is subtly changed. Remember the in-battle camera following only the first player, leaving the others to wonder what’s going on? That problem is gone. You also won’t struggle with your co-players in the menus, as only the player that opened the menu can navigate it. That’s good news in one sense, but it also means that, outside of battle, only the first player can access it, and you’ll probably have to pass the controller around. It’s a trade-off. (By the way, other players don’t get to spin the camera on the world map anymore either.)
Glitches are a little bit of a trade-off, as well. Gone are the special tricks that allowed spellcasters to perform infinite melee combos with well-timed button presses. Cheating to get techniques from both sides of a character’s skill tree is no longer possible. And, if you want Zelos’s Gigolo title, there’s no longer a way around it–you really will have to talk to every female in the game to get it. Even getting money is more difficult–the Earth Dragon, a well-known target for grinding, is harder to get to and doesn’t drop as much. I’m not as aware of Dawn of the New World’s fixes, but it seems that spamming Unison Attacks without building them back up is also a thing of the past. In essence–everything players exploited to make the game a lot easier is gone, for better or for worse.
On the other hand, a few little problems are new to this version. The slight changes to the dialogue, mostly punctuation, have introduced a handful of glaring typos. In particular, the stones that unlock Long Range Mode (the ability to move faster and see more of the world map) in each region are completely unintelligible. That mode itself is a bit odd–for example, if there’s an automatic skit trigger, it won’t activate, and instead you won’t be able to walk into the trigger’s region at all without ending Long Range Mode. On top of that, every once in a while, you can see a slight seam in the world map.
I don’t mean to get too technical here. As I said at the beginning of this review, I’ve already shared my feelings about Tales of Symphonia, and it’s not out of the question that I might explore Dawn of the New World more fully in the future, as well. This is a compilation of the two, and the differences are what I wanted to focus on the most.
That might not be fair, though. At least 90% of what you’re going to see is still those two good old games, down to every detail. If you follow the main plot closely, you might not even notice what’s new. Tales of Symphonia is still the exact story fans know of Lloyd Irving, a young man who wants to not only save the world, but protect everyone in it, as well. His journey still takes the same, sometimes unexpected, turns filled with challenges and, sometimes, failure. The other half, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, features its own characters, Emil and Marta, dealing with the results of Lloyd’s efforts two years later, with the original characters appearing as “guest stars” in their tale.
Each of the two games offers you about 40-50 hours by itself, making the sum pretty substantial, although I would argue that the original Tales of Symphonia contributes the bulk of its actual value. Even though I wish the two had even the tiniest speck of integration (you can’t even switch between them without quitting the game disc entirely!), it’s still nice that they’re both on one disc, especially considering one of them originally spanned two by itself.
If you’re thinking about getting the original Tales of Symphonia at all, at this point, it only makes sense to go with the Chronicles edition. At a mere $40, even that one game by itself offers a better value than the GameCube version would–even a decent-quality used copy would approach the same price. And, while most fans consider Dawn of the New World a letdown, it doesn’t exactly subtract from what this game is worth. Namco addressed some of the biggest complaints I had in both games, and the great thing about a PS3 title is that they can still patch the annoying little bugs. If that could happen, that would make this truly the ultimate Tales of Symphonia experience. And, have I mentioned that it’s an amazing game?
Review copy purchased by the author.
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is available on Amazon:
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